Lakeside Marks 40 Years
Neighborhood’s original residents remember the early years.

Original Lakeside Cluster Residents

Original Lakeside Cluster Residents

By Mike DiCicco
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forty years ago, Ralph Groening and his wife bought their house in the Lakeside Cluster on Lake Anne for $36,000. They had lived in the nearby Hickory Cluster but wanted to be lakeside, he said. "Living on the lake, the dock made life a lot more comfortable and a lot more interesting."

Groening’s is one of five houses in the 50-home community still occupied by its original owner. As the neighborhood celebrated its 40th anniversary at its semiannual picnic on Memorial Day — there’s another picnic on Labor Day — it also honored its remaining original homeowners.

Lakeside was built shortly after the original three clusters were completed, and it had the first patio-style homes in the area.

Nancy Larson, another original resident, said buying a home in the area had been considered a risk, with no one sure whether they would get a return on their investment. "Everybody thought that houses out in the country were weird," she said.

AT THAT TIME IN RESTON, "there was so much going on, on so many levels," she said, adding that she had felt highly involved in the community. "But you had to be involved because there was no one here." She remembered asking someone in the meat section at Safeway how to sign a girl up for Girl Scouts. "By the time I left the meats, I was in charge of Girl Scouts for Reston," she said.

Many of Reston’s residents volunteered in the community at the time, said Betty Kerley, another of the neighborhood’s founding members. She noted that not many women worked at the time, and volunteering was "the only way things would get done." She recalled being volunteered by Reston pioneers Jim Grant and Max Libman to fill in as a driver on the RIBS (Reston Internal Bus Service) bus when the system was run by volunteers. "I always got lost in Hunters Woods," she said.

Larson’s husband Cal recalled the attitudes many others in the county had taken toward Reston in those days. He remembered standing in line at the Magruder’s in Vienna. "The lady in front of me was talking to the checkout person about the communists who lived in Reston," he said. He noted that Restonians were "doing such crazy things as making it possible for everyone to live in town, not just white people."

Once he and his wife decided to move to the D.C. area from Denver, Colo., he said, "there was no choice" but to come to Reston, as his wife’s sister lived in town and was an ardent Reston advocate. "She was doing a lot of proselytizing, as we all were back then," he said.

With an office at Lake Anne Village Center, Cal Larson found that he was able to swim to work from his home, which he did for one season, before there was no longer a functioning shower at the office. He said he still swims in the lake, as does a "90-year-old-gal" on South Shore Drive, although the Reston Association discourages the activity.

Like many of Lakeside’s original residents, the Larsons had lived elsewhere in Reston before moving into the neighborhood when it was built.

Original homeowner Bonnie Whyte said it was a frequent Reston phenomenon for the first people to look at a Reston home to be Reston residents.

Her husband said they had first moved to the community because "a coworker of hers was big on Reston. It was all he talked about, but he never moved here."

That was in 1965, and Bonnie Whyte said fewer than 300 people living in Reston at the time.

The couple lived in the Hickory Cluster, and they decided to move to Lakeside because in Hickory, there was more land to manage and to disagree about how to manage, Bill Whyte said, and parking had been a problem.

His wife said having a dock made Lakeside a fun place. She pointed out that they kept their house in Hickory for 25 years, during most of which her mother lived in it. She said she didn’t know where else her mother could have lived safely, as the trails and nearby shopping enabled her to get around without driving. Eventually, she was often wheeled from her house to Lake Anne in a wheelchair.

When Kerley and her husband moved into the Waterview Cluster in 1966, Reston’s population was said to be 800. "My neighbor, who worked for [Reston founder] Robert Simon said they must be counting the dogs," she said.

WHEN LAKESIDE OPENED, they made the move. "My husband is a canoe fanatic, and we wanted to be on the lake." Kerley’s was the first family to take up residence in the neighborhood. The road wasn’t fully paved, and the electrical inspections hadn’t been done. Bulldozers regularly cut her phone line.

Bonnie Whyte said Lakeside had changed over the years from a neighborhood that consisted entirely of young families to one where, for a time, virtually no children could be found. Now, she said, "More younger families are moving in, which is great." She said she and her husband had no intention of moving until they found someplace better, which hadn’t happened in 40 years.

"It’s satisfactory to all levels — beginner, intermediate and retired," Groening said of the neighborhood. He noted that an overwhelming majority of the neighborhood’s homes were represented at the picnic, in spite of the drizzle that pushed the event from its usual location on the dock to one of the communal carports.

Nancy Larson characterized the neighborhood as a place where residents got along and cleanup day was well attended. "We tend to know a lot about each other and support each other without getting in each other’s hair," she said.

Her husband said vacations renewed his appreciation for home. "Every time we leave town, we come back, and I look out my window, lakeside, and think this is better than wherever we were," he said.